New signings boost Eastleigh

Daily Echo: Richard Hill Richard Hill

AS Chris Todd prepares to face his old club Salisbury City at the Silverlake Stadium tonight (7.45pm), manager Richard Hill has credited the experienced defender with helping to turn Eastleigh’s season around.

It is no coincidence in Hill’s book that, since the arrival of, first, Dean Beckwith and then central defensive partner Todd, the Stoneham Lane club’s fortunes have soared, writes Wendy Gee.

Beckwith’s debut, alongside Luton loanee Alex Lacey, provided the backbone of a 5-0 home win over Billericay. And since Todd arrived a few days later, the Spitfires have picked up nine of a possible 12 points to climb to eighth in the Blue Square Bet South.

“The thought has always been in my mind that we’d do better in the second half of the season,” said Hill.

“The addition of the new signings, coupled with the flair we’ve got, has made a big difference.

“The two centre-halves, Todd and Beckwith, are different class. They’ve given everyone else confidence that we can cut down the possibilities of the other side scoring.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to the other players, but I always knew we had good players at the top end of the pitch and we just needed to solidify the defence.

“I don’t want to get too carried away because only a few weeks ago I was on the bones of my backside. I still had direction and enthusiasm, but I wasn’t getting there as quickly as I’d have liked because I couldn’t get the two players I wanted. Rightly or wrongly, I waited for Beckwith and Todd since November and, together, they’ve been the single thing that’s made the difference to us.”

After beginning his Football League career with his hometown club Swansea City, Todd played over 200 games for Exeter and Torquay before being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in 2008.

With his treatment going well, it was tonight’s opponents Salisbury who helped him back on the road to recovery with two highly successful loan spells at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium.

“Chris did well for Salisbury during a difficult period in his life,” said Hill, who holds the table-topping Whites in the utmost respect.

Despite losing 2-1 at Dorchester on Saturday, City remain three points clear of Welling at the summit.

“They’re top of the table and, in my opinion, they’ll have done fantastically well wherever they finish,” said Hill. “They’ve led the way and said to everyone else ‘come and chase us’, which is a hard thing to do. “We’re looking forward to tonight. Football’s all about being involved in big games.”

Having been passed fit by Luton to play at Staines on Saturday, Lacey went off at half-time in the 3-1 victory with a sore foot.

He had treatment at Luton yesterday and Hill will be guided by the Conference National club over whether he is fit to play tonight. Salisbury have boosted their ranks with the permanent signing of Ricky Wellard from Cambridge United. The midfielder spent a month on loan at Old Sarum earlier in the season.

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